Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Stormzy – Crown

Heavy is the controversy….


[Video]
[4.86]

Thomas Inskeep: Stormzy is fucking great, but when he goes the “inspirational” route (which for him seems to always involve gospel), he’s not nearly as interesting. He’s like the UK Jay-Z, but this is his “Empire State of Mind,” and nobody needs that. This isn’t terrible, but it’s sure as hell dull.
[4]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Y’know, I liked Stormzy a lot better when his personality was limited to xeroxes of Skepta and Dizzee Rascal instead of Dave and Chance the Rapper. His singing voice is pretty charmless, a baffling decision to continuously indulge, the production feels very Eminem album track, and the general notion of “I’ve made it now and I’m dealing with the pressure” is always tired and silly without any sort of specificity and character to it. A weirdly flat and defeated note to what’s supposed to be glorious and inspiring.
[2]

Alfred Soto: You know it’s ruminative because Stormzy sings it, employs a choir, questions his relationship to his fans, and quotes Henry IV
[4]

Scott Mildenhall: It’s an interesting point of Stormzy’s stardom: “Blinded By Your Grace” isn’t quite what most people come to his music for, yet it is for Heart FM and Radio 2. That perhaps fuels the release of this as a counterpart to “Vossi Bop,” a relatively uncontroversial meditation that rarely digs deep. Even the more pointed moments are mostly unseasoned grist to the mill of breakfast TV hot air balloons, and as cheering as it is when bellowed back by tens of thousands in a field, the timely Boris-baiting should not and does not feel revolutionary. All that seems to matter is that it sounds appealing on the radio — admittedly, it stands out — and that Stormzy preaches to the choir and the prosecution all at once. So a meditation is all it has to be.
[7]

Ian Mathers: Imperial phase, innit?
[8]

Tim de Reuse: There are a couple of un-poetic lines (the chorus, in particular, is disappointingly nonspecific), but on the whole it nails the weariness that comes from having spent too long with too many things to be angry about. Uncertain about his status as the “voice of the young black youth” and frustrated with the inanity that wears down his will to do good, he just barely manages to end the second verse on a determined note — hell, that captures the mood of my late-2010s experience pretty damn well!
[8]

Will Rivitz: I know people tend to slag Christian rap as a toothless husk that has been anemic almost as consistently as its progenitor has been vibrant, but give the prosthelytizers some credit: hip-hop is really, really hard to translate into rigidly religious uplift. Case in point: absolutely everything Stormzy’s done since grime went out of style a few years ago, the Garage Band production of “Crown” a nadir impressive only in how low it dips below every other nadir he’s hit before this. If someone once so essential can sound this dreadful, those in the same vein who who top out at solidly mediocre have earned my utmost respect. 
[1]

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Kasher Quon ft. Teejayx6 – Dynamic Duo

By our own popular demand!


[Video]
[6.27]

Ian Mathers: I cannot wait for the blurb here that’s going to explain to me why this whole thing just feels off to me, because god knows I don’t have the background knowledge or vocabulary for it. In the meantime it mostly just reminds me of After Last Season. I love After Last Season.
[7]

Andy Hutchins: Indebted to the long-running tradition of paranoiac rap and strides made more recently by fellow Michigander Tee Grizzley’s relentless flows spilling over at bar’s end, Kasher Quon and Teejayx6 embark on an instantly legendary cataloging of what being young, dumb, and so full of ways to hustle and scam sounds like in 2019. Dish detergent as a lean ingredient? Sure. Scamming your own nephew(s) with fake Js and/or fraudulent iPhone purchases? Sure. The endgame here is admirably low-budget, too: Flying Spirit is not even close to enviable. “I just went to Walmart, and I tore that bitch down” is a legitimate aspirational flex, and you get the sense that this is an improbable inversion of the age-old rapping just to get a rep, with the penny-ante schemes being touted by kids unafraid of being called small-timers or unaware of why that would even be a problem. And if “Dynamic Duo” were about a minute shorter, it would not tick past the point of an electrifying thrill ride into what chemistry on a rap song can be and into an exercise sure to exhaust the listener. Something tells me Kasher and Teejay will keep going, though.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: For arguably the last two or three years (at minimum), it’s been a poorly kept secret that Detroit has become the best city of the rap game. Atlanta? Self-rewriting hogwash sounding just as generic as NYC did in the mid ’00s. Los Angeles? Still depending on rappers who’ve taken over nine years to gain any sort of traction outside of its own city walls and would rather keep going back to the well from tired old icons. Chicago? Their best rapper MOVED OUT, and now they’re best represented by a sanctimonious theater kid working out his ABDL-related complex in public. Sickening! No, Detroit has been THE place to be, thanks to a frantic paced scene built on Scamming, Sniping, and Sleaziness. Plenty of my peers, in response to “Dynamic Duo,” have been confounded and astonished at how seemingly extreme and hysterical the record sounds, but once you’ve heard the likes of Pablo Skywalkin or Rocaine, that this city has produced, you get it. The maniacal offbeat flows, the stressed out hyperactive minor key piano licks over the Mannie Fresh-indebted throwback drums, the vivid detail as these men describe going on The Dark Net and buying your (YES YOURS READER!) social security numbers to make Venmo into a frenzied honeypot. Believe me when I tell you that Kasher Quon and Teejayx6 are some of the youngest to do it, but they’re astonishingly normal for this scene. If this is the record that puts The Motor City back on the map, then I’m all the happier! But approach with caution!
[8]

Alex Clifton: I want to make it absolutely clear that this is one of the worst things I have ever heard. I also listened to it four times in a row. It’s not just bad but unforgivably bad, inept and cringey and something that could only exist in the era of YouTube. I don’t mind small-time guys trying to make a song and sounding endearingly bad; usually in those cases, though, you have an idea of the song, a notion of what the artist wanted it to be. There is, however, no redeeming musical quality to this track. I can’t even call it a song because that implies structure and melody and some sort of forethought as opposed to whatever the hell this is. The best part of this contraption is the beat, which is the repetitive Phoenix Wright soundtrack from hell mixed with a bad trap drum. Honestly it wouldn’t be so bad if it had literally any variation other than randomly going up or down. And then the rap starts. I can’t. I literally can’t. I could rap better than these dudes, and I am the kind of person who karaokes Taylor goddamn Swift whenever I can. And yet this performance is hypnotic? Every time I listen to this I am struck anew by its utter badness. This isn’t Maroon 5 phoning-it-in bad, nor Lukas Graham full-of-shit pomposity bad; it’s just a literal trainwreck of words thrown about with no care as to order or sense. Throw in some absolute what-the-fuck lines (“stingy with my sauce like Mr. Krabs” is my current favourite) and this thing throws me for a loop each time I hear it. I hate this bloody thing and it won’t leave my brain. It is worth mentioning that the video is a solid [10].
[0]

David Sheffieck: This is a vertiginous experience, mashing together a beat like a mid-’80s car chase with the high wire act of Kasher Quon and Teejayx6 swapping and overlapping lines at a headlong, near-breathless pace. It’s technically dazzling and (more importantly) fun: a thrill-ride built from quotable lines, wild boasts, and a sense that nothing’s impossible. Maybe the best song I’ve heard all year — and without question the most exciting.
[10]

Crystal Leww: There’s a moment in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse where Miles Morales scores a 0 on a test and his teacher gives him a 100 instead, because “You have to know all the answers to get all of them wrong; you’re trying to fail out.” That pretty much sums up how I feel about “Dynamic Duo.” I would never play this in a club or a car and would never hope that anyone ever plays it on the radio where others would be trapped into listening to this. There is so much chaotic, bad energy stuffed into this seemingly never-ending track of rap verses. Both Kasher Quon and Teejayx6 are somehow off beat for every single beat, which sounds so cheaply made on knockoff Garage Band. Everyone involved knew every single thing they were supposed to do in rap music and decided to do exactly the opposite. That’s beautiful to me — that’s high art. 
[8]

Will Adams: Admittedly, this is the first time in a while that a song has evoked the feeling of “I’m losing my fucking mind,” so I can’t not give points for that.
[5]

Joshua Copperman: I am 100% not the target audience. But nothing exists and has ever existed in a vacuum. This was going to find its way to me eventually, even though it was not made for me, a writer-type person who can’t be called a critic because to people of a certain age the word brings to mind not not Christgau, not Zoladz, not even Fantano, but, like, Doug Walker. Then it brings up Lizzo. Yet I know the feeling of something being so deeply your thing that you become irrepressibly On Brand. This sound collage of absurd punchlines is baffling to me — this is what most people probably hear when they say they hate SoundCloud rap. And then you have the writers that would view it as punk, flying in the face of everyone trying to analyze it. But that wasn’t the intention. It was a duo fooling around and going music-Twitter viral, maybe for the wrong reasons. It’s easy to imagine someone liking it in spite of other music, not because they genuinely enjoy it. But watching my Twitter feed briefly explode with excitement was a beautiful moment. “Dynamic Duo” doesn’t transcend its trappings — the punchlines are given no room to breathe, and the beat is too busy. But it works enough that the irony-drenched recesses of music twitter paused for only a moment. That’s plenty.
[6]

Ryo Miyauchi: Leave it to Detroit rappers to continue and celebrate an exercise in rap practiced in the earliest wave of the genre. “Dynamic Duo” gets off the rails pretty quick with Kasher Quon foregoing some attempt at narrative of him and Teejayx6 getting ambushed, and it instead becomes a competition of who can one-up the other in humor, raunchiness and violence. A thrilling, off-the-cuff freestyle feel flows throughout: bits like handling mom’s bills on Comcast.com and entering Wal-Mart with a frown can only come from a wild stream of consciousness, rushing to grab any word and rhyme that comes first. It’s been a while to witness not only this intense of baton passing between two rappers but also for one to inspire a better bar out of another with each succession.
[8]

Alfred Soto: The tinny beat is the point, the off-the-beat rapping perhaps. Intentions are for lawyers, not critics. To enjoy “Dynamic Duo” is to relish the can-you-top-this? vulgarity of who did what to which women. Quon and Teejayx6 could go on for sixteen more verses, by which point every other kid on the playground would’ve returned to class and called the disciplinarian. When they don’t flex their imagination for the sake of cruelty, it works, which is about half the time.
[5]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Trapped on the precipice between never wanting to hear this again and wanting an extended cut and I think the latter is winning. Please send help.
[6]

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

bbno$ & y2k – lalala

You’re right, you are old…


[Video]
[2.57]
Ian Mathers: TFW the memed part is the best bit of the song (big mood).
[4]

Will Adams: Another entry in the burgeoning genre of “TikTok meme trap” built on that ever annoying faked blooper trope from an artist whose “first song ever was him simply laughing over a ‘Chief Keef type beat’ after a blunt with his friends,” which sounds about right.
[3]

Crystal Leww: The melody works and the beat is fine. This is a pop track masquerading as a hip hop troll track, but the white, suburban, TikTok teen fans of bbno$ and y2k won’t care about those details. It’s annoying! We already have a Lil Nas X making nonsense like “Panini” – why do we need a couple of white boys to get famous doing a worse version of joke meme rap? (I do know.)
[4]

Will Rivitz: I mean, “TikTok Bazzi” would (and probably did) fly in a Columbia Records A&R meeting, at least.
[3]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Some artists pass off laziness as cool remove, but bbno$ is so clearly angling for meme-driven success that even his lack of interest in finishing his lines or knowing his singular melody seems put-on. y2k’s beat is no better, evoking low quality PC game soundtracks circa 2002 and GarageBand tutorials. It’s not even rancid or shocking like other bottom tier TikTok memes — it’s a miss, not a hit.
[0]

Jonathan Bradley: This is far too insubstantial a song to bother with, so I’ll review it as a meme. As a meme, “lalala” is a weak reflux of the lip-synched, single-actor conversation composed of reverse-angle cuts that characterized “Go Hard (La.La.La.),” but with none of the wit, malleability, or narrative flair.
[2]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The meme associated with this song isn’t even good, but you could watch 12 of them in the time it takes to finish the song and it would be a much more rewarding experience.
[2]

Monday, July 15th, 2019

Post Malone ft. Young Thug – Goodbyes

Officially better now (just)


[Video][Website]
[4.00]

Jonathan Bradley: Fuckboys have feelings too. So many feelings.
[3]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: “There’s no way I can save you/’Cause I need to be saved too/I’m no good at goodbyes” is a good line, but also a good signpost for what this song’s trying to capture. More than any of Post Malone’s previous singles, “Goodbyes” goes down real smooth. And for a song that seems to be little more than overwrought wailing, the sense that everything here feels diluted and simplistic ends up being a good thing. Post’s gritty vibrato feels a bit too natural here — it’s considerably less noteworthy than before — and Thugger’s performance is one of his safest to date. But all this embodies that purgatorial emptiness of struggling to end a toxic relationship; when you feel paralyzed by life-altering decisions, it’s nice to have a song that you can put on repeat that doesn’t ask much of you beyond agreement with somber atmospherics.
[6]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: “Goodbyes” is just “Better Now” with an added Young Thug texture pack, but the additional weirdness that Thugger provides does just enough to make the sequel surpass the original. Yet Young Thug’s presence here also reveals the flaws in the sensitive Post Malone project: Thugger’s strung out, alien-like tones communicate the anguish of “Goodbyes” far more effectively than Post Malone’s inert body.
[5]

Ryo Miyauchi: Young Thug approaches this track so disappointingly conservatively, yet it’s tough to blame him, as he’s forced to dumb it down to meet halfway with his collaborator’s conventional sense of melody. He’s been straightening out his flows lately to the point his voice no longer has any of the slipperiness that once made him so exciting to hear, and he continues to try and get by only on the strength of Auto-Tune in “Goodbyes.”
[4]

Alfred Soto: The Dante Gabriel Rossetti of the teen melancholia set shows a temper, which might get him a few million more streams. Fortunately, Young Thug sits on the edge of that purgatorial bed wheezing like an incubus. 
[6]

Scott Mildenhall: One surprise of 2018 was pilot-dropper Joan Armatrading’s repeated rhapsodising about Post Malone. “I think Post Malone is who I like the most at the minute… he writes really good lyrics — they come across as meaningful, they’re saying something. I love his tunes as well, like his voice, he’s got attitude”. It was a surprise, but it makes sense. “Goodbyes” is another melodious purge of heartbreak with a sense of singularity; existing in its own world, like “Better Now”, and like Armatrading’s first hit.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: In many ways the Don Henley to Drakk’s Glenn Frey, Malone here is solipsistic and nostalgic but does his best to make it less about phony poignance and more about indulgence. Ignoring the Young Thug verse (which in 2019 honestly everyone should start doing), this is arguably the best you can get out of Malone as far as his writing goes: a lot of “I’m fucked up but YOU’RE fucked up” displacement and “copelessness”, resulting in avoidance and self-indulgent dejection. It’s a boring return to his best sort of Meat Loaf-meets-Travis Scott wave of malaise that sounds velvety but has the character of stale bread. Still better than anything Juice WRLD’s done in this vein though.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: Is there a major-level pop star right now who seems like a more vile person than this asshole? His “talents” consist of Auto-Tune and vulgarity, and that’s it. As for Young Thug, he should know better.
[0]

Andy Hutchins: Dear God, Post Malone is stealing lyrics and sentiments from Sam Smith now? Are there literally no other people left to rip off than noted ripoff artists? “All I do is complain” is one of Post’s most honest lyrics ever, but there’s nothing else worth a damn here — Thugger is on autopilot in his upper register without a modicum of wit, and we’ve heard Auto-Tuned Post whining about nothing on about eight singles to date. And so of course this dipshit puts the world’s least-earned Kurt Cobain reference in the first line.
[1]

Monday, July 15th, 2019

Dino d’Santiago – Como Seria

A trip to Nova Lisboa…


[Video][Website]
[6.50]

William John: Mired in the quiet of a storm of lovelorn desperation, Dino d’Santiago gives a subtle performance that masks melodrama with seduction. It’s the perfect complement to a hypnotic, irresistible groove.
[8]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: A track with a groove as chill as this is always at risk of stagnating as mere background music, but Dino d’Santiago manages to avert such a fate. He throws in enough interesting instrumental touches, mostly in the form of some beautifully clean jazz guitar lines and synth tones, to make it work. A miraculously non-hackneyed reference to Beyoncé and Jay-Z manages to seal “Como Seria” in the memory, a refreshing groove that never bores.
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: More lush an instrumental than normally found on your typical stretch of chill, though it could use more time and space — particularly on the bridge — to unfurl more.
[6]

Will Adams: The arrangement is less of a fleshed-out structure than it is an assemblage of intricately placed ornaments: muted guitar lines, synth chimes, various percussion popping in. While this leaves space for Dino d’Santiago to really shine, by the end it doesn’t quite feel like we’ve gone far enough.
[6]

David Moore: The arrangement and production are lovely, a little city of sandcastles, maybe, but the vocal is just this side of recessive and the song doesn’t so much settle into itself as stall out by the end.
[6]

Alfred Soto: d’Santiago requests the blessing of Beyoncé and Jay-Z for this valentine, whose rhythmic base percolates just enough.
[6]

Scott Mildenhall: In what way are they like Beyoncé and Jay-Z? It’s hard to deduce too much, because “Como Seria” gives little away, unmoving if not content with insistent thoughts circling. It’s at once relaxed and perturbed, and that gentle friction works.
[7]

Tobi Tella: A nice, chill slow jam from Portugal that while boasting nice production and a fairly solid Beyoncé and Jay-Z reference, doesn’t really go anywhere.
[5]

Saturday, July 13th, 2019

Bonus Tracks for Week Ending July 13, 2019

Come see what additional work our writers have to offer this week:

Friday, July 12th, 2019

Thom Yorke – Not the News

Not the new-ews — HEY! — not the news…


[Video]
[5.33]

Alex Clifton: The production here is a bit much, as I think all Thom Yorke songs are, but I can actually listen to “Not the News” all the way through. I find Radiohead’s music in general super-alienating and terrifying, but through the discordant blippy noises and the minimal lyrics I finally get why Yorke’s music always sounds so despairing. The difference here is that I can relate to this one without feeling overwhelmed, like I’ve fallen into someone else’s brain. If I’ve heard any song this year that captures the bleakness of watching the news, it’s definitely this one.
[5]

Ian Mathers: The production easily achieves what would be my goal, were I in Yorke’s place: it just sounds good, not like a rock musician slumming and/or trying to adapt. It kind of goes somewhere less interesting in the end, but the rest is enough to have this be the first non-Radiohead Yorke thing I’m interested in following up on since The Eraser.
[6]

Alfred Soto: It moves — a melody like an EKG machine, several rhythm lines intersecting like blood vessels across lung sacs. For the first time in years dystopia becomes Thom Yorke instead of bringing him down. 
[7]

Scott Mildenhall: This sounds so much like a jingle from The Adam Buxton Podcast (specifically this one) that it seems certain a funny voice saying arcane phrases will pop up at any moment. Ah.
[7]

Tim de Reuse: Drowning in reverbed bleep-blooping and dramatic string-adjacent synths, Yorke hollers vaguely dystopic gibberish in service of sci-fi grandeur. It’s all right, I guess, but I can already feel myself forgetting about it.
[4]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Yorke learning in his later years to reject glitchy IDM for the “deconstructed club” variety of Super Smart Thinking Cool References is both relieving (because I don’t want to hear Autechre-inspired loops ever again) and damning (because imagine this old millionaire trying to talk to you about SOPHIE and Jeremih). Oddly his squealing tone now sounds more like Chris Martin than ever before, yet you likewise wish he bothered to tether his noises to some sense of melody. “Not the News” feels like a patchy collection of notions superglued together, and while the collagist approach has benefited Yorke before, in 2019 he feels more prone to letting the scraps become an affect rather than a gesture.
[3]

Friday, July 12th, 2019

100 gecs – Money Machine

OK, so no-one mentioned Grimes…


[Video]
[6.75]

Scott Mildenhall: A new version of The Game for people who used to play The Game: if you respond to this, then 100 gecs win. If you use the words Grimes or Sleigh Bells then they win forever, and if you shut your mind off to certain aspects of it, it becomes listenable.
[6]

Will Adams: Wow, this Sleigh Bells remix of Farrah Abraham is a lot better than I expected.
[5]

Will Rivitz: A purely hypothetical exercise: I would theorize that if a young teenager were to find electronic music through artists bridging the gap between the nu-metal they loved and uncut dancefloor shit, like — as a general example — Immersion-era Pendulum and Scary Monsters-era Skrillex, and that young teenager’s journey through electronic music over the course of the next decade was defined at least in part by a categorical failure to distance that now-mid-20-something’s musical taste from the scene shit they absolutely loved and still discuss online (say, for example, on a music blog or two) with high enough frequency that it’s clear to any reader that they never really got over it and probably never will; if — again, purely hypothetically — if this statistically improbable person were to listen to “Money Machine” once, then listen to it thirteen times more in a row, then continue to listen to 1000 gecs for months, I would imagine they would have trouble admitting the song and corresponding album might be exactly their lane of trash, that they’d describe it semi-jokingly as “trash” but also kind of cringe internally whenever they used the word because they’ve listened to it way too much for it to be even a semi-joking enjoyment at this point. Something like that, anyway. Purely hypothetical.
[8]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: As the 2010s draw to a close, I’m starting to believe that the second half of this decade hasn’t really seen much creative advancement in the world of music (which, is fine, but it’s a bit disappointing). “Money Machine” (and the rest of 1000 gecs) sort of solidified that for me: for something that sounds incredibly of the moment, a lot of its touchstones go back at least a few years — Brokencyde, PC Music, Sleigh Bells, 2000s pop punk, turn-of-the-decade rap like Kreayshawn and Lil B and Kitty Pryde — and the experience of listening to it recalls the internet-era genre-blending of Salem except through a “deep-fried meme” filter. It’s nevertheless the most pleasant surprise of the year. The first verse’s insults are flirtatious and absurd, and the transition from comparing this person’s arms to cigarettes and then saying “I bet I could smoke you” is an unexpectedly sublime tsundere moment. The rap-borrowed boasts could have easily felt out of place (think: Falling in Reverse’s “Alone”) but the song’s archness and the hook’s immediacy turn the clatter into joyous, blissful reverie. How are you feeling in 2019? Burnt out? Pissed off? Desperate for intimacy? Eager to splurge what little money you have? Simultaneously wanting to express all these things and never wanting to think about them, or anything at all? Well, have I got the song for you.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: What I love about 100 gecs is the self-erasing sense of abandon in their commitment to shittiness: their constant doubling-down on their worst instincts, their ugliest sounds, and their stupidest ideas captures a vivid nihilism that strikes awe in its ability to destroy indiscriminately. “Money Machine” is a song that attempts to conjure superiority from comparative vehicle size, but its contempt is infatuated (“Your arms look so fucking cute” is disrespect, but it stills sounds smitten) and its aggression accelerates into fantasy (“You’d text me ‘I love you’/And then I’d fucking ghost you!”). The production seems to zero in on the harshest accidents of 2010s internet ephemera: the brash pretensions of Kreayshawn, which have been rediscovered half a decade later as meme fodder by TikTok teens; the ghoulish tech-shredding of Farrah Abraham’s memoir-cum-pop-dalliance; the red-lined white noise compression of Sleigh Bells at their most noisome. And all of this is absorbed into punk-pop song structures and colored with capitalism’s facile materialism, creating a glitch-fest of content that overwhelms while refusing to even consider meaning, let alone create it. There’s something to be said for an act that, at every juncture it’s given the chance to make its art better, chooses to make it worse. It’s so fucked up and it’s the most 2019 song I’ve heard all year.
[9]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: The first 20 seconds of “Money Machine” are pure destruction, a funhouse mirror battle rap diss carried through the distorted tones of Laura Les. It’s thrilling (so thrilling that they put it on a novelty t-shirt) in how it uses Navy-Seal-Copypasta voice in a way that’s at once ironic and serious. Yet the thing that keeps me coming back to “Money Machine” is instead Dyln Brady’s second verse, which takes the song’s momentum and puts it into a holding pattern. It’s tuneful and ambiguous, an ellipsis where the rest of the song is an exclamation point. But both parts are necessary for the noise of “Money Machine” to cohere. The alchemy of bravado and uncertainty, all filtered through the extremely online, is a fine art, and 100 gecs is approaching mastery of it.
[9]

Alfred Soto: I was listening to Sir Babygirl most of the afternoon before playing “Money Machine,” so my nervous system reacted to the attitude and boom boom bap of the beats. I especially relished the intro riff: a distorted whatever imitating a banjo played as if it were a bazooka.
[7]

Alex Clifton: In early college I tried really hard to like MGMT and Animal Collective and Sleigh Bells and all the Cool Indie Bands that were critically acclaimed — all the noise pop that felt rife with inflated egos. The good news is that now I’m not a tryhard 18-year-old wanting to impress people, I don’t have to pretend to like this!
[2]

Friday, July 12th, 2019

Mabel – Mad Love

Not Mabel to avoid comparisons…


[Video]
[3.71]

Katherine St Asaph: Mabel is settling nicely into her existence as midcareer Rihanna; here she’s reached “Rude Boy.”
[5]

Scott Mildenhall: For someone with a very down-the-line voice, it’s perhaps appropriate that Mabel is making such down-the-line songs, but that doesn’t mean they’re not uninspiring. This is such a UK Hit In 2019 (ie feasibly a Dua Lipa cast-off, ie genuinely a Purcell & Mac co-write) that it almost seems unlikely that it’s captured attention. On the other hand, she’s almost caught up her mother for UK top 10s already, so maybe this is just the line about the radio in “Manchild” coming back to haunt her.
[6]

Ramzi Awn: Mabel’s latest is barely audible through all the vocal processing, and the lyrics are a laundry list of stolen gems. Sure, it makes for an instant party, but in the words of Cher Horowitz, “Mad Love” is a full-on Monet: from far away, it’s OK, but up close, it’s a big old mess. 
[2]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: There must have been some kind of mistake–clearly, Ty Dolla $ign was supposed to be the best part of this and not the weirdest part of the serpentwithfeet song.
[2]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: “Don’t Call Me Up” had me fearing that Mabel was turning into one of the more generic pop stars of the moment. “Mad Love” confirms that she’s actually reached that point. Everything–from the repetition of various words to the “moody” finger snaps to the unspecific lyrics about affection–seems tailor-made to be harmless pop fit for tons of radio play. More than ever before, I’m unconvinced by anything she’s singing.
[3]

William John: Kudos to Mabel for apparently solving the Spotify pop algorithm, but she needs to add some new documents to her precedent folder. Without context, “Mad Love” raises few objections, but at the same time there’s little to differentiate it from or commend it over her previous tropical house missives. “You know I love the thrill,” Mabel sings – should that be true, then bring us some next time.
[5]

Alfred Soto: I’ve heard this before: Halsey, Rihanna, what? I’ll hear it again.
[3]

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

Keane – The Way I Feel

The Mild Wounders…


[Video]
[5.50]

Ian Mathers: Is Keane actually less objectionable shopping mall music than, I don’t know, Imagine Dragons et al, or am I just the right age to feel that way? Can’t imagine either getting mad at it or listening to it voluntarily in any case.
[4]

Alfred Soto: Keane going full-on Killers happened a decade too late.
[2]

Iain Mew: Everybody changes, and if that change takes us somewhere The Killers also know, there’s plenty of room for synth-rock this shimmering and frantic.
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Scott Mildenhall: It’s a symptom of British culture — the amount of jokes that have been made about the crises and addictions of Tom Chaplin. Posh boy singing nice songs in a band without a guitar? He was probably just keen on Lemsip or something, he couldn’t possibly have Exciting Problems. People are still stupid about such things. And that’s why “The Way I Feel” cuts so deep. Always such a nice boy, growing up to sing nice songs — and yet. Inside, volcanoes. There’s a particular thing — that of being the child who everyone knows will be just fine — which for him extended into a public adulthood in which the tenor of his songs was taken to be the tenor of his self. The pressure to be someone with no problems, combined with ridicule based on the assumption he couldn’t have any. It’s an unfortunate paradox; as is the fact that this is actually about his bandmate Tim Rice-Oxley. He can see the parallels though, and no doubt so could many others.
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Jonathan Bradley: Can the English do The Killers? The Killers proved, definitively, that they could, when they expropriated “Romeo and Juliet” from Mark Knopfler, but when I hear Tom Chaplin sing of a “broken link, a missing part, a punctured wheel,” I contrast it with Brandon Flowers turning the same doggerel into bullshit national myth-making about “the teenage queen/the loaded gun/the drop-dead dream/the chosen rhyme.” I don’t know if there is an English equivalent of that wide-screen rock and roll patrioism that manages to be grandiose but still earnest. And yet, still: Keane is a band as exciting as poured concrete that, on “The Way I Feel,” has managed to make themselves big and passionate, and I welcome such surprises.
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Joshua Copperman: Sonically, this is too slick to make any connection, which wasn’t always the case – even at their most polished, they still managed to wring some emotion and occasionally an outright great song. But despite an assist from David Kosten, who helped Everything Everything gloss up their eccentric ideas, this just sounds even more Killers-y than usual, without the Springsteen bombast. The issue is that there’s no substitute for that campiness, even as the contrast between the frantic video and the ultra-smooth song is most certainly camp. While the lyrics felt condescending at first if directed at another person, if introspective they actually redeem the song from being totally anonymous, and the stacked harmonies of that chorus also go a long way. Still, it’s much harder to eccentricize a slick song than focus a band down to their best ideas.
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